The Israeli Air Force destroyed a tower in Gaza City housing the offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera in what has been widely criticized as an attack on press freedom.
Saturday’s airstrikes – the sixth consecutive day of hostilities between Israel and Hamas – came about an hour after the IDF ordered people to evacuate the al Jalaa Tower.
There was no immediate explanation in advance as to why the 15-story building was targeted. In addition to the two international media organizations, the tower housed several other media, offices with several Internet providers and private apartments.
The building was hit about six times before collapsing in plumes of black smoke, which engulfed the entire neighborhood.
An Israel Defense Forces statement said the building contained military assets belonging to Hamas intelligence offices.
“Before the attack, the IDF warned civilians in the building in advance and gave them sufficient time to evacuate the site,” the IDF statement said.
“Hamas is deliberately placing military targets in the heart of densely populated civilian areas of the Gaza Strip.”
Al Jazeera live streamed a phone call between the building’s owner, Abu Husam, and an Israeli intelligence officer in which Husam asks the officer to give media personnel time to clear equipment from their offices. His request was rejected.
“We went down the stairs from the 11th floor and now we are looking at the building from a distance, praying that the IDF will eventually retract,” PA reporter Fares Akram tweeted, just before the tower went down. be affected.
Earlier on Saturday, Akram published a first-person article in which he described how an Israeli bomb destroyed his family’s farm in the northern Gaza Strip the day before. Six of his relatives, including his father, three friends and several colleagues died in the three wars and other hostilities between Israel and Hamas, he wrote.
“The Associated Press office is the only place in Gaza City where I feel any bit safe. The IDF has the coordinates of the skyscraper, so it’s less likely that a bomb will crash it.
“But on a deeper level, it’s talking to the people of Gaza, working to make their voice heard from a territory they cannot leave on their own, it keeps me sane. When I tell the world what’s going on here, I find a little solace.
The current hostilities between militants in the Gaza Strip and Israel are the worst clashes since the 2014 war. Several reports, citing Egyptian mediation sources, said that on Thursday evening Israel rejected a ceasefire proposal. that Hamas, the Islamic group that controls the region, had accepted.
Since Monday evening, Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets at Israel, which struck the Gaza Strip with strikes. In Gaza, at least 139 people were killed, including 39 children and 22 women; in Israel, seven people were killed, including a six-year-old boy and a soldier.